How Depression Affects Couples - In Their Own Words

Posted on June 9, 2016

The US study broke new ground by asking both partners in each couple to provide their perspective on how depression had affected their relationship.

In all, 135 couples, most being heterosexual and white, provided open-ended answers online. The average age of the participants was 40 years, and just over 70 per cent of the couples were married or in a similar life-long commitment. The researchers identified several key themes, the most commonly mentioned was the emotional toll of depression on the relationship. Other themes included: problems with romance and sexual intimacy, over dependence on the relationship, and feelings of uncertainty about the relationship.

For example, many of them spoke of the support they were required to give to their partner, feeling like a single parent at times and "having to parent my spouse such as making certain he wakes up, stays motivated ... eats, exercises and baths" said a 34-year-old woman.

The answers given by depressed participants (with a non-depressed partner) also illustrate how the dynamics between the couple can sometimes make life extra difficult or complicated for the depressed person, including the frustrations they can feel at the lack of empathy with regard to living with depression.

There was a silver lining in that some couples – more often those where both partners were depressed – described feelings of enhanced intimacy that were fostered by depression. "It brings us closer at times by supporting one another," said a woman with depression who's husband is also depressed.

Overall, the researchers said their findings show just how "difficult it is to disentangle the effects of depression on the individual versus the relationship."

Category(s):Depression, Relationships & Marriage

Source material from BPS Research Digest

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